Writing Dialogue Tags


Dialogue tags are short modifications to sections of dialogue. They let the reader know who is speaking. Dialogue tags should be used sparsely. In fact, many writers avoid them altogether, and instead, allow the voices within the dialogue to identify the speaker. If dialogue is developed well, tags should be unnecessary, though, sometimes a well-placed tag can change the pacing or add closure in effective ways.


“Look at me.” 

“I’m looking at you.”

“No. Look at ME.” She moved her face to three inches from his.

“Okay,” he said. “I see you.”

The above action beat, She moved her face to three inches from his, is a short modifier describes what the character is doing in relationship to what the character is saying. Beats can be used effectively to change the pacing within a longer dialogue stream. Using them sparsely, at just the right moments, and they can add a great deal of texture to dialogue. Use them too frequently, and they will detract from the dialogue.

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